As we approach the new year, we’ve been getting more excited about our up and coming app, A Place for Art. One of the unique features of our app is its take on navigation – going beyond the idea of menus, lists and categories, visitors instead navigate pathways through collections and uncover narratives and insights about the emerging themes among objects. Rather than ask the visitor to search or select, they explore and uncover.
In 2013, the Linked Open Data in Libraries Archives and Museums (LODLAM) will hold its second annual summit to talk about the wonderful things we could do in a world of massively connected data. The organisation hosts a challenge where teams sketch an idea or prototype – whether it would be a mashup, a visualisation, or a tool – that highlights how Linked Open Data can be best realised within libraries, archives and museums.
The great thing about Linked Open Data is its massive potential to provide “new ways of seeing” : enriching the data within museum collections, creating new contexts and forging new connections among objects. My project looks at a pretty unique way of visualising these enriched collections under the enduring metaphor of landscapes and pathways. You can check out the video submission for my 2013 LODLAM challenge entry:
Inclusive, yet enviously reputable, the National Digital Forum attracts the best minds and a youthful optimism that leaves you glowing with unbounded possibilities on how we could express and share our immense material culture within the digital medium.
Several themes resonated throughout the conference : emotive interfaces and experiences, the empowerment and demystification of technology and the idea of the intersection : the museum website as a hub, not a destination; user experiences that open new doors and avoid “dead ends”; the confluence of ideas and disciplines afforded by the possibilities of digital media within museums. To quote DK’s keynote, we operate on an “intersection of amazingness“ with a call to “create something … a little more spectacular” – a sentiment that captures the excitement of the spaces we work in and the community that empowers us : museum professionals, strategists, directors, researchers, Web developers, librarians, archivists, technologists and historians.
Can we build digital products that induce positive, curious experiences? Is there a way to perhaps algorithmically curate collections? The possibilities of building engaging experiences from digitised collections are endless. New mediums provide tantalising ways of looking at works that weren’t previously possible. Via exploratory design, I’m interested in how we can build interfaces that reveal and unravel narratives within collections.
In a series of posts, I will outline insights revealed through my research and a summary of key academic literature leading to the design behind my up and coming app – A Place for Art. In this post, I will explain the concepts of the spatial organising framework of the container and the landscape. I hint at the necessary shift from the former to the latter as a mechanism for providing context for objects, and how landscapes – combined with engaging interaction designs and the notion of pliability – can used as a way of providing immersive experiences for museum collections.
Why would anyone want to stare at pictures of forks, chairs and strange looking light bulbs? The Design Museum offered me a pretty good reason to stay fixated on their recently released app that showcases a rather modest, but well curated collection of ingenious bicycle designs, curvaceous chairs from the 50′s, and the iconic red London phone booth. Oh, and there’s an AK-47 in there too.
A testament to industrial design and material culture, the objects range from the nostalgic (the first raspberry iMac), the forgotten (Sony’s MiniDisc player) and the iconic (Obama’s ‘PROGRESS’ campaign poster). They are photographed and presented beautifully in one of the most playful, yet deceptively simple interface designs I’ve seen in a collections app.
When one works within the academic environment, one needs to consider appropriate breaking point between good science, rigour, and great real-world impact and innovation. As a young, glazy eyed PhD student with a sense of youthful optimism, I embrace the academic environment as an opportunity to be creative and innovative while standing on the shoulders of other great, creative innovations and solid theoretical and technical knowledge.
For me the start of the working year always brings such a self-indulgent rant. Perhaps marred by weeks of sunburn and self-reflection, one begins to wonder their true position and identity within their physical (university) or organisational (department) environments. Within this sort of environment, there is a undue emphasis on rigour : asking the right questions, collecting the right data, building things the right way, and then pulling it all together to make sure you actually answer your questions. Such a critical eye on our work allows us to see through the rose tinted glasses and find the truth in any study, design or system.
I never search when I walk into a museum. I wander. I ooze in and out of the works and let them caress my curiosity. The joy of surprise comes from a lack of anticipation, not knowing what’s around the corner. And yet on the Web, the search box prevails.
In a keynote speech at the 2011 National Digital Forum conference, artist, writer and academic Mitchell Whitelaw describes them as ‘stingy’ at best – uninspiring keyholes into museum content management systems. At the same conference last year, similar sentiments were reflected by Nick Poole, CEO of Collections Trust UK:
“… what’s the point of spending a whole lot of money on digitising objects when they’re just going to hide behind some poorly designed website that no one is going to use? …”
One thing that the Web also lacks, even in comparison to print media, is scale. Things are never big or small on the Web. They are squashed and windowed. Being as wide as a toolbar or small as a button tells me nothing about its presence. Sure, it might look nice, but it will never reveal the minutiae of a Sepik nose ring or the imposing authority figured depicted in Andy Warhol’s Mao.
Like, discover and find art. UOWArtTour showcases our extensive collection of Aboriginal and contemporary works across the University of Wollongong campus. Developed by honours student Rebecca Hall, UOWArtTour is part of a family of apps – called the Connected Mobility Digital Ecosystem – that uses mobile devices to try and understand people’s interactions and behaviour within large campus environments.
Collections should be meaningful for our stakeholders and we really need to understand their searching and browsing behaviours. In this final post of a three-part series of museums and metadata, I will present some early work on this topic and how it relates to the levels of interpretation found within visual imagery. An understanding of how people browse allows us to create more engaging browsing interfaces for museum collections.
If someone was looking for an image or visual work, how would they construct their information need? To answer this question, Batley identified four classes of information needs, based on their level of concreteness:
- Specific: these information needs are expressed as keywords in a very precise search statement. They are unambiguous and concrete (e.g. “Thomas Jefferson”).
- General/Nameable: These are general information needs that can be expressed in keywords, although they may result in very high recall and must often be made more specific (e.g. “a ruined castle”).
- General/Abstract: These are general information needs that are difficult to express in keywords. They involve abstract concepts that could be expressed verbally but not as a precise search statement (e.g. “a busy street scene”).
- General/Subjective: These information needs are difficult to express verbally. They deal with emotional responses to stimuli, cannot be expressed as a search statement, and are dependent on the characteristics of a scene as interpreted by an individual (e.g. “a scene that illustrates how times have changed”).